If two words could sum up the last several years, it may be these: shared trauma. It might take years for society at large to fully grasp the pandemic’s complex individual, global, and ecclesial effects, but a cursory look around reveals a straightforward reality: hearts are still very much broken. My friends, we have our work cut out for us.
There’s no going back to life before this storm. So what does our preaching need to accomplish as we move forward? How will our leadership in this time be altered in response to our shared trauma? How have YOU changed?
Maybe you stand before your congregation with new worry lines and stress-induced gray hairs. Maybe you look out over the faces and see souls crumbling under the weight of ongoing financial strain and upheaval, or reverberating with the effects and knowledge of continued societal injustice. Maybe you see your flock’s children bumping and bruising their way through the world after experiencing it through the barrier of masks and screens for so long. Maybe you see deep fissures running through your members’ ranks, fracturing the relationships you know to be sacred. Maybe all you can see are the aching holes left by those lost to COVID-19. Whatever you see, acknowledge it. Because if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that acknowledging trauma should be a regular part of our preaching.
The 2023 Festival of Homiletics will create space for learning and conversation that honors what we have been through—and what kind of leaders we want to be as survivors of the storm. We have all, like Paul, been shipwrecked. We stand on the shore battered but very much alive. And like Paul, this is our response to the hardship and the heaviness: to preach hope for a weary world.
Hope. That thing with feathers that sings throughout the storm. That thing that sustains us, renews our strength, gives us wings like eagles. That improbably tangible gift from God.
Who better to name hope into our world than preachers—than you? This is our prayer, after all: “May the God of hope fill you [and me—my congregation—my family—this world] with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
We believe in a hope that defies all odds. A hope that speaks of new life amid death. A hope that reaches for justice amid inequity. A hope that knows the promise of God’s righteousness amid fear and despair.
The 2023 Festival of Homiletics will inspire us to a renewed sense of our radical calling.
Our weary world needs us, preachers. Hope wins.